#reverb10, Day 4: Wonder

Today’s prompt:

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Okay, we’ve officially hit the point at which I start complaining about the awful gooshiness of these prompts. A sense of wonder? Really?

I do not think I have a sense of wonder, at least not in the starry-eyed sense in which I cannot help but read that phrase. It’s possible that there’s something antithetical to that kind of gawping amazement built into academic life. When confronted with surprise, a scholar will tend to speed right past wonder to analysis: What does it mean? Why did it happen? How should I understand this?

I refuse to think that’s a bad thing. In fact, the beauty part of the academic life may lie in that conversion of slack-jawed wonder into more focused wondering, pressing beyond the mystery to the questions it provokes. That doesn’t mean that we lose the “wow!” aspect of wonder, only that the exclamation point is replaced by a colon, and more thought ensues.

So, what am I doing to cultivate a sense of wondering in my life? I’m working really hard on trying not to have all the answers in my writing and research, but instead to remain open to new questions, so that I don’t miss the moment of surprise that might lead me in a new direction.


  1. Agreed; joyfulness and surprise are key. And congruently, error, failure and coincidence. As I near the end of my manuscript I’ve been thinking about these experiences as key to my archival work as events I want to write about it my introduction. The drafts that were rejected, the paths that didn’t pan out, the stuff I kept in just because I thought it was funny, that directed kept me writing and therefore to think about comedy and politics. And finally, the book I picked up by accident in the stacks of the Stanford library that made me start the whole project. In other words, wow moments…

  2. I’m glad we both had the same image in our head when we read this prompt. I love your relation of this to academic life and trying to find meaning in things.

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